VAIL, Colorado - Since opening Nov. 2, Vail's Golden Peak has been a flurry of activity. Over 60 teams including national teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Canada, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, France and the U.S. have been taking advantage of the early season training. Many other programs, including clubs, academies, and colleges from across the U.S. have also been running gates, charging the mogul lane, and using the air bag lane for honing aerial skills.
Nicole Whitaker, director of sales and marketing at Manor Vail, said that the early training at Golden Peak Competition Center attracts business to Vail, which in turn starts the season here earlier than other areas.
"The best way I can describe it (the early training) is that our ski season gets off to a very robust beginning about a month prior to everyone else," Whitaker said.
Up to 10 training lanes for slalom, giant slalom, super-G, moguls and aerials are available in four daily time slots. In three years of operation, Vail has become known worldwide as being the best location for training during the month of November, according to Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. The combination of terrain, snow quality, proximity of lodging, organization and a welcoming community has created that reputation, club officials said.
"There are many benefits to the early season training here at Vail for the international teams," said SSCV's CB Bechtel, manager of early season training. "There is a lot of racing in North America this time of year, so the athletes can acclimate to the time zone and altitude while finishing their preparations for the season. Golden Peak has proven to be a reliable source of snow while Europe has been struggling to host the early season races."
Bechtel also pointed to the important cooperation between Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Vail Resorts.
"While SSCV manages the training environment and hosts the teams, it is the outstanding work by Vail Resorts' snowmaking, grooming, lifts, ski patrol, competition, and parks crews that makes this such an exceptional experience for our guests," he siad.
"Coming here early has been a great thing for us," said U.S. Ski Team coach Ben Black said. "The snow and hill preparation is awesome, and the terrain helps us finish off what we're looking for with our progression for slalom and giant slalom."
"The training here has been second to none," said Canadian World Cup coach Kip Harrington. "They do a great job of organizing and accommodating everyone."
"Austria has been coming here for several years now," said Austrian coach Wolfgang Erharter. "It is very good here, and we really appreciate being here. This is pretty much the best training you can get now."
The early season training on Golden Peak was made possible by a nearly $3 million investment by Ski and Snowboard Club Vail in 2008 through the generous support of its donors, and a unique partnership with Vail Resorts and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
"Hosting national teams and Olympians on Golden Peak provides a unique opportunity for our kids to train alongside the world's best," said Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Executive Director Aldo Radamus. "Most importantly, our kids are able to get their pre-season training at home without missing school and at no additional expense for travel. The exposure of Vail around the world benefits our community, its visitors, and our kids at what is usually a slow time for ski areas."